Networks Paradoxically Continue Taking Pro-DVR Ads

Networks and by extension their affiliates might be mad enough at Dish Network to refuse any of its ads, not just the ones backing its Hopper DVR functionality that automatically skips commercials. So, with that as a backdrop, it’s worth questioning their wisdom in accepting any ads at all that plug DVRs – any from DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, etc.

Yes, the Hopper is a unique product in that it can automatically record programs on the Big Four networks and allow for playback with absolutely no commercials. Well-known is the litigation the networks are embroiled in with Dish, looking to shutter that opportunity. (Their affiliates are affected and hoping for a victory without paying any legal bills.)

To a layman, Dish would seem to have this one in the bag. Its central argument is compelling: if DVRs are legal with the relatively easy ad-skipping capabilities, all the Hopper is doing is making that process easier. It’s a technological, pro-consumer advancement, Dish contends.

Networks might prefer to go back to the pre-DVR age, but they’ve accepted the challenge the devices pose in reducing their ad impressions. Why such anger about the Hopper? It seems it boils down to conventional DVRs at least give them a chance -- a chance that a viewer will be watching a recorded program and forget to skip the ads (and the promos) or even find the spots so alluring, they’ll stop and watch.

But ad-skipping via any type of DVR is only going to increase as penetration and familiarity grow. Networks have loudly conceded their fear about the impact by pushing to get advertisers to pay for four more days of DVR-enabled viewing.

If DVRs are such a bugaboo, then why are networks – including cable outlets -- running DirecTV spots plugging the new Genie DVR that can record five shows at once?

What about Tim Tebow appearing in ads for TiVo, where he mentions he enjoys the chance to record four shows simultaneously? To many, TiVo is a synonym for ad-skipping.

Why is Time Warner Cable airing a spot with William H. Macy’s “Shameless” character promoting how a DVR can be easily set to record from a smartphone? “Set your DVR from any device … anywhere” the spot says.

None of the ads encourage commercial-skipping. DirecTV and Time Warner Cable sell ads and want them watched. TiVo has tried to brand itself as advertiser friendly. And “Shameless” is on Showtime, which doesn’t run ads. But ads encouraging so much recording is bound to lead to more ad-zapping. Accepting the spots seems paradoxical.

Networks make arguments that DVRs benefit them by bringing more viewers – ad-skippers or not. Many of them could become hooked, perhaps leading to more live viewing or video-on-demand consumption, where ad-skipping capabilities can be disabled.

Funny, Dish has made a same argument with the Hopper – that it’s helping networks by giving their content more exposure. Hasn't exactly resonated.

1 comment about "Networks Paradoxically Continue Taking Pro-DVR Ads ".
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  1. Edmund Singleton from Winstion Communications, February 2, 2013 at 5:44 a.m.

    One would think a network would want to make anyone viewing their programs a pleasurable experience, that is not the case. There is a network logo on one side of the screen on the other a promo for another show, so I just turned on my DVR to HBO and said =-@$#!@.

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